Are Esports Dying? A question you might find yourself asking

As an esports fan, player, investor or even a curious outsider to the phenomenal esports scene a question you might find yourself asking is – is esports dying? Maybe you saw someone ask the same question online, or spotted that a seemingly good or popular esport had been shelved? This could prompt you to question esports now as well as its future viability.

The reality of whether esports is dying or not is in fact complicated. The esports industry is a boom comparable to the rise of the internet. Esports net worth annually is in excess of $1 billion now, was predicted to rise rapidly before the impact of Covid-19, and now with more people looking for safe, home entertainment could rise even faster.  Individual esports titles can, however, dwindle in popularity, get mothballed by their creators and indeed “die.”

Gamers themselves often search for whether their favourite game is dying. Common searches on the internet include “Fortnite dying“, “Overwatch dying,” “CS:GO dying,” and even “League of Legends dying.”

Dying Esports

© Robert Paul

Esports dying: let’s take some examples

Heroes of the Storm, for example, started well and by February 2015 nine million players had signed up for beta testing of the game. Heroes of the Storm 2.0 was released in 2017 and the game was an albeit small part of the esports niche. By December 2018 Heroes of the Storm development was downsized by Blizzard Entertainment and its esports tournaments cancelled.

There is speculation that Overwatch is a dying esport. Blizzard revealed at the end of 2018 that the number of Overwatch players had declined, and more recent numbers are difficult to pin down. Overwatch has gone from being near the top of the Twitch viewership charts to 16th by February 2020. Meanwhile new title Valorant is going from strength to strength. This success could last for years or decades, or be over in months. Gamers and their fans can quickly be enticed by new titles, or back to the attraction and improvement of old titles.

Is esports different from traditional sports?

This rise in fall in popularity of esports titles is indicative of the gaming and esports industry. It is important to realise that esports, unlike other sports like, say football, is made up of many different games or game titles. Perhaps in this way esports is better compared to an encompassing institution like the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics, it’s food for thought.

EsportsBets.com recently interviewed Rahul Sood of leading esports betting website Unikrn asking:

“What’s your personal opinion on new emerging or ‘dying’ esports titles? For example, all the current hype for Valorant, and so many speculations about ‘Overwatch is dying’?”

Sood replied:

“Nobody owns football. Nobody needs to pay to keep football servers online and to update football balance patches.”

He illustrates the struggle to compare traditional sports and their success with esports, pointing out the investment needed by game publishers to ensure a game is playable. The rules of football and the mechanics of a football game don’t change. Players don’t need to rely on football’s owners to provide the equipment in order to play. Football has no owners. Gamers, however, do rely on game publishers who not only need to provide game servers, but also ever-changing game content and mechanics to keep up with technology, trends and expectations.

Esports’ success and its overall phenomena and player engagement are truly comparable to traditional sports, however esports definitely have its differences. Esports titles will wax and wane in popularity. Sometimes support will be pulled by publishers who have to be focused on long term profitability. This is all a natural part of the life cycle of games.

And, games aren’t always dead unless the developer pulls support entirely. Just look at Artifact: years after launch, Valve is working to revive it. Whether or not they’re successful, the team is invested in its success despite the fact that it has dipped to single-digit player numbers at certain points.

Are Esports Dying

© IEM

Our final thought on dying esports

Some esports may be dying, some games have died, others looked to be dying only to experience a revival as player trends change. The success of individual esports games depends on publisher commitment and investment as well as their patronage by esports competitors and everyday gamers. For this reason, the games that make up the esports scene will change over time. That said, the evidence that esports is alive and thriving is apparent in the industry’s overall success.

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